Of All of the Gin Joints in the World...
The assumption here is that there are still lines out there which attach Notary Sojac and their music to fans and old friends. Admittedly, these lines have atrophied and pretty much disappeared in many cases, but utilizing this page to establish detours, they can be rebuilt. Letters sent to the email below each Sojac page will be received and, if deemed not of prurient value, might possibly end up on this page. So if you just want to say hello, or maybe have something of value to share regarding Sojac and the era, come on ahead. Be forewarned: Every letter will be monitored and screened for bacteria and lice. Management reserves the right to co-opt any good ideas and copyright them for future profit. Note: If you do not wish to appear on this page, please say so. Anything of a personal nature will be treated as such and will not be posted. Title for this page is credited to the first bearer of old news (and the film he stole it from, "Casablanca") to grace this page.
I toured the Experience Music Project earlier this year in Seattle and was especially taken with the Pacific NW Bands exhibit (and later visited the pnwbands.com website), which brought back lots of memories--- being 13 in 1965 and seeing The Wailers at the Rockin' Castle in Boise and a year later at the Fiesta Ballroom (might have been The Zodiac Way, by then). The group that really amazed me at 13 was The Quirks, whom I first saw at The Bomb Shelter in the Highlands in Boise. Lead singer then was Justin Bonner, lead guitarist was Tom McMeekan (who had a broken leg with cast on from hip to toe--- rumor was that they dropped an amp on it to get him out of a draft board physical), and on drums, Mike Marks. First band I ever saw that had three-part harmonies (thanks to rhythm guitarist Leo Lawrence AKA Leo Brickey) and looked like The Byrds. Saw them many times after that, before and after their big trip to L.A.
Flash forward to 1969 and the buzz around Boise centered on a new band coming to town from Portland that had former members of The Quirks--- Notary Sojac (what so wary what?). I saw them first at the Fiesta Ballroom with some of the guys from a band I was in. We were floored. We expected good musicianship, but had no idea it would be at that level. All original material. Memorable songs--- 35 years later, I can still hear in my head the chorus to "All Around the Town", a Tom McMeekan tune. Great instrumentation--- Will Herold on Hammond B-3, the Koski brothers on woodwinds. Three part lead guitars in harmony (years before we'd ever heard of the Allman Brothers), And unusual time signatures--- I don't think any of the rest of us in Boise had ever played anything that wasn't 4/4. This was so far beyond what any of us had heard before, and I suspect if we could hear it today, we would think the same.
I was an acquaintance of several of the members then. I knew Jim Lowry from a group he was in prior to NS. I bought an amp from Mike Marks that I used until a few years ago, and I remember going over to Will Herold's parents' house with him when NS was in Boise one time, but I can't remember now for what. The point is that they were accessible and loved to talk about their music, and we were all convinced that NS was the next big thing and we would be able to say, "Hey, I know those guys."
I was in a band during The Quirks heyday called Thyme in Motion (yuk, so 60s), an earlier one called Nu Blu, and one later one called Trouble (nothing to do with Stevie Ray Vaughn). After college in the mid-70s, I was in a band we called The Turkeys--- weren't taking ourselves too seriously then. I also made my living playing in clubs throughout Southern Idaho in 1978 and 1979, working as a single (guitar and piano and vocals). Sitting on a stool playing covers for people waiting for and finished with dinner was an awful grind after awhile. But, one night in the fall of 1978, I was playing a now-defunct place called Grandpa Meyer's which was located at Franklin and Orchard on the bench in Boise. Pretty remote, non-descript and away from downtown. It was a weekend night like any other, and I was playing my usual assortment of Neil Young, James Taylor and other acoustic-oriented stars of the time, when in walks Tom McMeekan and Bob Koski. "Of all the gin joints in the world..." I immediately switched to originals and original arrangements. At break time, I had to pee desperately (nerves, I'm sure). In the next stall is Bob, and I say, "Weren't you in Notary Sojac and isn't that Tom McMeekan with you?" He laughed and said, "Yes, I was and that indeed is Sneakin' Fingers McMeekan." He invited me to join them at their table where I was entertained by his humor (we were laughing hysterically in a few minutes). Later, I brought up how much the band had impressed us impressionable teenagers and amazed Tom when I could recall "All Around the Town" and "Mr. Daniel." That has been the last time I saw anyone from the band.
I hope you'll post links to some of the sites that have more info on NS and sites that would interest old fans like myself. Tom McMeekan's current band in Boise, Red and Gray, has a few CDs out that are a must for NS fans. Red and Gray has a website, too, ( click here ) where you can see pictures of the band. Don't expect Tom's white boy Afro from the '70s. I'm not sure I would recognize him if I passed him on the streets of Boise. The new CD, "No More Yesterdays" (originally titled "Tales of the Blue Lantern") I have not heard yet, though it was released in August of 2004. "Highway 52", their second (which I do have) is a stunner. I listened to it steadily for months. About half the songs are Tom's and his guitar work and songwriting is a delight throughout. I grew up in a small town near Boise. Highway 52 passes through it , a road I've driven many times, so that song with a couple of others with Idaho references appeal to me greatly. The other members contribute well-written songs, nice harmonies, and give Tom's guitar a chance to shine.
Jim Lowry is still making music and recording it. He is in Bellingham WA, which is about an hour and fifteen minute drive from where I live, north of Seattle. It is also where my daughter is going to college at Western Washington University. I go to Bellingham on business about once a month, so I've been hoping to be up there when Jim's band, Jacapito, is playing. Missed it by a day last month. I'm looking forward to sitting down with him and renewing our acquaintance. It's been at least thirty years since I've seen him. You can see a picture of him with Jacapito under the "Music Groups" category. Short hair, but doesn't seem to have aged a lick. I hear Steve is teaching music. I'm not sure what the other former members are doing, but I did see that Will Herold had posted a note in the guestbook at http://pnwband.com saying hello to all old NS fans and band members. You might also contact the comedian-juggler, Chris Bliss, who has a web site featuring some of his writings on the time he spent living with the band. A Notary Sojac CD? I've been waiting.
Jim Gratton (November 6, 2004)
Other Sojac Pages:
The Return To Zoid:In the Realm of Captain Coyote
The Battery of Musicians
From Their Point of View
Partial Giglist: Perhaps You Were There
Red and Gray (Tom McMeekan's current group)
Jacapito (Jim Lowry's current group)